WAES’ plastic-free compostable sneakers create a big impact without a carbon footprint


It’s no secret that the fashion industry is one of the highest polluters on the planet. Here’s a fact that’s new though… the shoe industry pumps out more than 20 billion shoes each year, and virtually every single one of them has trace amounts of plastic in it. That’s not even considering the fact that for the most part, shoes are never biodegradable.

Couple the permanence of plastic with 20 billion and you’ve got a pretty deadly number on your hands. It’s easy to recycle cloth, but shoes, not so much. Since most shoes are made of multiple parts, featuring multiple materials glued together using synthetic glue, your footwear can’t be recycled or composted. The guys at WAES Footwear want to change at least one of those things. By engineering the plastic out of the footwear, WAES’ shoes look to nature and natural materials for inspiration. The shoes come in two variants featuring a certified organic canvas upper (the Hope) and an organic, tanned leather upper (the Chameleon), bound together using conifer glue and twine made from hemp, cotton, and flax; with an insole and outsole made from Lactae Hevea, or tree sap. WAES’ shoes are manufactured in Portugal and every element of the shoe is natural or nature-derived, and is biodegradable, including the shoe’s innovative packaging which is made from reusable wooden port-wine boxes!

One would probably think the absence of plastic would present some compromises, but nature has its way of providing better alternatives, says Ed Temperley, co-founder of WAES. The Lactae Hevea sole is, in fact, more durable and at the same time more flexible than plastic or synthetic elastomer soles, while the upper fabric and laces present a classic evergreen silhouette.

The regular shoes you wear may eventually end up in a landfill, but even a decade of wearing them results in sole abrasion, which causes plastic microparticles to enter the ground and atmosphere. By ditching the very use of synthetic polymers, WAES’ shoes have a significantly lower impact on the environment, and they biodegrade naturally, creating less waste in the long run… and for each shoe bought, the fine people at WAES pledge to plant a mangrove tree to help restore marine ecosystems!

Designers: Edward Temperley & Damian Quinn of WAES Footwear

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WAES –  Plastic-Free Compostable Sneakers

WAES is a 100% plastic-free and biodegradable sneaker without the ecological price-tag.

The Shoe Construction

Materials Overview

Zero  Waste

They use natural ingredients that have been engineered to remain easily compostable after they have been shredded, and the tiny amount of metal they use (Hope model eyelets) is easily recyclable in any household collection.

By using the highest quality materials (and a little cobbling knowhow), they have engineered the plastic out, and the bonus is they’ll last longer on your feet than most shoes, before eventually being ground down into plant food.

Color Options

The Chameleon: Organically Tanned Leather

The Plastic (Shoe) Problem

Carbon Neutral Footwear Production

Climate collapse is one of the greatest threats to our world, alongside the tide of plastic. Which is why they are working towards full carbon neutral certification via the planting of mangroves and have teamed up with SEA TREES and they will plant one mangrove tree for every pair of WAES shoes purchased.

Did you know Mangroves store carbon down in the seabed and are more than five times more efficient at sequestering carbon than a rainforest tree?

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